Apple and Peach Pest Management
Posted: April 27, 2010
“There are more than two dozen arthropod pests in apple and peach orchards, so management for these crops is very complex. Researchers at Penn State are part of an on-going project that will produce high-quality fruit profitably while reducing the risks of pesticides to the consumer and to the environment.
According to Dr. David Biddinger, research associate at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, Pa., the program helps growers adopt more ecologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) programs by adopting the use of more selective “reduced risk” pesticides in their orchards. We hope this project will lead to widespread adoption of IPM practices and will lead to more stable agroecosystems,” Biddinger says.
IPM aims to manage pests -- such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals -- by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.
Fruit growers are under increasing pressure from consumer advocacy groups to eliminate the use of potentially unsafe neurotoxic insecticides such as organophosphates and carbamates. Infants and children are especially at risk to many toxic active ingredients in pesticides because of their smaller size and developing bodies. That means apple and peach growers will need effective alternatives that are both environmentally and economically viable. “There are a number of reduced-risk replacement insecticides for organophosphates and carbamates, but many growers know little about them or how to use them properly. These products are also much more costly than the compounds they are replacing and a few are just as harmful to beneficial insects as the older pesticides,” Biddinger states.
According to Biddinger, the pests that do the most damage in the project region are the ones whose larvae feed within the fruit, such as the codling moth, oriental fruit mot, apple maggot and plum curculio. In addition, leafrollers, the tarnished plant bug and various stink bug species also feed directly on fruit and can cause major crop loss. “Apples and peaches have high cosmetic standards, so damage to the fruit must remain low in order to sell,” Biddinger explains.
The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996 requires the phasing out of some pesticides on certain crops to protect infants and children. “Organophosphates and carbamates are the first of the insecticides to be reviewed, and unfortunately, the ones apple and peach growers rely on the most,” says Biddinger. “Although the review is not yet complete, some types of organophosphates registrations are being restricted or canceled, which means they can no longer be used.”
Recognizing the need for alternative IPM programs in eastern tree fruits, in 2002 six apple and peach producing states in the northeastern region initiated a four-year USDA funded project to develop and evaluate, on a regional scale, reduced-risk IPM program.
During the previous project, principle investigators from each state concentrated on the feasibility of IPM programs in orchards and reducing the use of older, more toxic insecticides and replacing them less-toxic versions. Researchers also worked with growers applying pheromones, which disrupt mating in several types of moth pests. Pheromones are chemicals produced by insects to communicate with other individuals of their species. Typically, female insects use pheromones to attract males over long distances.
The results from this first study indicate that almost 84 percent of the pesticides applied to apples and peaches are still organophosphates, but that IPM programs based on reduced risk pesticides were equally effective at producing saleable fruit and could reduce the pesticide load applied into the environment (pounds of active pesticide/acre) by almost 85 percent. Biddinger says this reduction is because the new compounds are much more active and applied at much lower rates and certain tactics, such as pheromone mating disruption and increases in biological control, will also help to reduce the number of applications. “According to the Environmental Impact Quotient developed at Cornell University, the environmental impact of reduced risk IPM programs would be 5.3 times safer than the programs they are replacing.”
According to Biddinger, the program demonstrated that apple and peach pests can be adequately controlled using reduced-risk tactics, however it can also be 79 to 85 percent more costly for growers to apply them to apples and peaches, respectively. “Our goal for the new project is to build upon our previous research and develop reduced-risk tactics that are more profitable and sustainable.”
Biddinger and researchers are concentrating on developing application thresholds and whole-farm management strategies that could further reduce the cost of reduced risk IPM programs and will more closely document increases in biological control and the reduction in impact on nontarget insects and the environment.
The researchers plan on refining of their use of new insect growth regulators, biologically-based insecticides and pesticides that target one or two pest life stages. The researchers also plan to use a “whole-farm” approach in which the entire orchard, not just certain blocks, are under a reduced-risk management program. “Key insect pests of apples and peaches are highly mobile and we often saw movement between reduced risk managed and conventional blocks,” Biddinger explains. “These changes, along with more targeted pesticide and cost effective pheromone delivery systems should lead to higher profitability, especially in high risk orchards that are under high pest population pressure or in which pesticide resistance has developed.”
In addition, the National Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agriculture Management Assistance program is reimbursing the growers for the cost of some of these safer IPM practices in Pennsylvania. The program reimburses growers on working lands for various conservation practices, including IPM. For more information on the program, visit their Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ama/.
A FQPA Risk Avoidance and Mitigation for Major Food Systems grant funded the first 4-year project as well as the current 3-year follow-up project. Other principle investigators in Pennsylvania are Larry Hull, professor, and Greg Krawczyk, research associate, in entomology at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, and Jay Harper, professor of agricultural economics at Penn State. For more information on the project, contact Dr. David Biddinger at (717) 237-2216 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pennsylvania IPM program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. The Pennsylvania IPM program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. For more information, contact the program at (814) 865-2839, or Web site http://www.paipm.org/. To view our archived news releases, see Web site http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/news.